The Phased Adaptive Approach, President Obama’s missile defense plans for the protection of European allies and the United States, faces increasing scrutiny in the House of Representatives.
House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R–CA) and House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces chairman Michael Turner (R–OH) recently penned a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressing concerns over the Administration’s “continued sharp decline in the attention and resources invested in U.S. national missile defenses.”
They are correct. President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 missile defense budget is not adequate to address a growing ballistic missile threat and is tilted in favor of funding missile defenses for regions outside the U.S. In addition, President Obama’s March 2012 “flexibility” remark to the Russians indicates that President Obama is willing to subordinate the missile defense program to his arms control agenda.
President Obama assumes that if the United States reduces the number of its nuclear weapons, others will follow. This is mistaken, because countries pursue nuclear capabilities based on their own interests and perception of their security, not what the United States does.
The letter also calls for answering questions related to the Iranian intercontinental-range ballistic missile program and a potential North Korean rail-mobile, intercontinental-range ballistic missile. In 2009, the Obama Administration abandoned the third site, comprising an interceptor site in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, and justified this shift on “new intelligence,” which indicated that the pace of Iranian and North Korean ballistic missile programs is slower than previously believed.
President Obama took this as an opportunity to radically cut the missile defense budget and cancel some of the most promising programs, including the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, the Multiple Kill Vehicle, and the Airborne Laser. The Administration also reduced the number of ground-based interceptors available to protect the United States from 44 to 30.
So far, the Obama Administration has not produced a “hedging strategy” in case a ballistic missile threat develops faster than expected pursuant to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The House Armed Services Committee proposed a missile defense interceptor site on the East Coast as a part of such a hedging strategy.
The Heritage Foundation made a similar recommendation in its recent study. Such a site would be capable of defending U.S. territory more effectively against ballistic missile attacks, including short-range missiles carrying electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads that could be launched from ships.
A ballistic missile threat from adversarial nations is growing. This is not the time to cut U.S. missile defense capabilities.